Tunisia: Start Up Index - Unleashing the Potential of Local Innovation
Where do the most game-changing innovations occur? Sometimes, they don't germinate in the executive boardroom but rather in a small company or even a garage. Think back to the humble beginnings of Apple's Macintosh.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) is looking to galvanize Tunisia's entrepreneurial ecosystem with a particular focus on small IT businesses in its latest initiative to establish the Tunsian Start-Up Index (TSi). Today, in partnership with Elgazala Technopark, a workshop was conducted in which scores of Tunisian start-ups were introduced to the concept of TSi and its registration procedures.
There are over 100 IT start ups in Tunisia, and this move by the AfDB follows the example of previously instituted start-up indices in South Africa and Malaysia, which have also been hotbeds for IT innovation.
The Start-Up Index essentially serves as an interactive media platform in which the progress of Tunisian start-up companies will be regularly assessed, and the resulting information made public. This is of particular importance because it, "assists with creating investment visibility for start-up companies based on consistent measurements and criteria," according to the workshop's introduction of the concept of TSi.
Visibility on the global IT market is necessary primarily for financing reasons. Venture capitalists, private equity firms, and angel investors, for example, may look to the TSi to glean critical information on the most dynamic IT start ups and then make investment decisions accordingly.
Yasser Bououd, manager of Ezzayra, a software start up whose products aim to streamline agricultural management, emphasized the importance of visibility for his own company. Bououd, along with his co-developers, have successfully created mobile technology that allows one to control irrigation from a cellular phone. However, he entertains high hopes for another of Ezzayra's products. An integrated software system that manages agricultural inventory, labor, and operations could help Ezzayra carve its own niche in the global IT market.
According to Bououd, analytic accounting technology of this variety does not exist in the field of agriculture worldwide. Bououd expressed his excitement for the greater visibility that this particular product of Ezzayra could potentially enjoy with the advent of the TSi.
However, issues related to financing loom in the mind of Hamadi Gara, technical director and associate of Trading 3C. He along with his three associates - Chiheb Trabelsi, Hatem Zribi, and Imen Bokri - have already established Trading 3C, a start up that accesses local markets on behalf of call centers in Europe. Additionally, he is looking to start a second project - Ultrasweb - which will develop sites and provide technical support at one-third the rate of its counterparts in Europe. While they have already made contact with, potential clients in Europe, through an intermediary, they need financing to turn the idea of Ultrasweb into reality. According to Gara, it will be tougher to do so without the forthcoming establishment of the TSi.
The TSi has the potential to be of added value to the Tunisian government as well. "The TSi is good for Tunisia's government because it is worried of joblessness. There are so many young people with ideas, but they lack the infrastructure to promote them," said an AfDB official, who asked to remain off the record.